BusinessDay

Unbundling Department of Communication Arts will boost students’ entrepreneurship training – Esuh

The Senate of the University of Uyo recently approved the expansion of the Department of Communication Arts into a Faculty of Communication and Media Studies. In this interview, PETER ESUH, the Head of Department of Communication Arts and a professor of Marketing Communication, spoke to ANIEFIOK UDONQUAK on the broader implication, the prospects for students and other issues. Excerpts:

What does the unbundling of the Department of Communication Arts mean in real terms?

As society changes, we must evolve disciplines, to go in line with the changing dynamics of human society.In the 21st century, emphasis is more on entrepreneurship against the previous ideas of theoretical principles. These days, it is the turning point for the theories to be turned into a kind of perspective that will engineer entrepreneurship to cause those who come out of the system to be self-reliant. For the evolution of the disciplines, it is actually natural that disciplines are not static, they evolve as the society evolves. So, as disciplines evolve, they grow into a kind of dynamism of peculiarities that separate them from other fields. When that happens, you have to delineate and give them a functional description and administrative colouration that will allow them to stand out and to achieve that which they are set for.

How vast is the field of Communication as a discipline?

Communication is one vast and dynamic area that no one degree can claim to achieve its peculiarities. When you look at the nature of communication, and the application to social behaviour zand humanity in general, you notice that if you studied Public Relations for instance, you will do a few courses in the University that will not allow you to do practical work that will make you a real professional in the area. The same goes for Advertising, or Broadcasting, these in themselves are institutionalised dynamic disciplinary areas, and when you look at the western world, they had for a long-time unbundled Communication into these entrepreneurial areas to enable them work in the functionality of human society. So, we were late but the good thing about the University of Uyo’s Department of Communication Arts is that this was the dream of the founding fathers, Professors, Solomon Unoh, Emmanuel Akpan, Des Wilson, MbukMboho, those were the key persons then. The idea of communication was not that of a department, it was a school, their vision was to establish the first school of communication and we are evolving, it has come to a stage where we have to unbundle Communication Arts to create more teaching inclination to entrepreneurship and bring out more professionals that will be self-reliant, and employers of labour. That is why we have unbundled. In Uyo for instance, we have taken all the unbundled areas into departments, and I think we are the first in Nigeria that has come out with eight departments in the new faculty. The departments now include Journalism, Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing Communications. Others are Broadcasting, Film and Multi-Media Studies, Information and Media Studies as well as Strategic Corporate Communication.

How prepared is the University to implement this decision?

If the University of Uyo was not ready now, the Senate of the University would not have given approval. The development committee chaired by the Vice Chancellor would not have given recommendations to the senate that eventually approved it.

In terms of facilities, does the University have the facilities on ground?

This is not a case that is peculiar to the University of Uyo. it is a nationwide issue, that is why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been fighting for a better academic environment, rather than bringing out universities here and there, in which some of them can be described as mushroom universities, we should strengthen the existing universities, with enough facilities, if you say we don’t have the capacity to take in more students, then expand the facilities we have.The University of Uyo main campus is three kilometres radius in space, with a vast forest lying fallow, unused, why go to put another University elsewhere when we can expand and establish facilities in the existing ones. It is not a question of the University of Uyo, it is a national syndrome that must be tackled realistically. Within the circumference of the provisions made, the University of Uyo is ready to have the faculty.

If you have the facilities, what about the resource persons?

There is something people don’t know when they hear of the unbundling thing. It is like the faculty of law, you have the department of private law, about three departments making up the faculty. Tell me which lawyer will not have the rudiments to teach in the other areas until he gets to specialty. Here we have specialists in advertising, we have specialists in public relations, we have four professors in broadcasting and broadcasting has four pillars, radio, television and sound recording and film. And so, when we have the department of film and multimedia, we have people who can teach in these areas. When we have the department of information and media studies, we have people doing computer science and infographics; there is something called cognate cross-breeding of ideas and teaching. So, what we have done is that in cognate areas, where others exist, teaching globally is based on cognate relevance. If I have the department of film and we have some lecturers in Theatre Arts who are into directing and all that, why would they not come into the department of film studies

How realistic are these programmes; what opportunities are there for employment?

We hope to present this new idea to the government and people of Akwa Ibom State because it is also about jobs. Ninety percent of the students are going to come from here while 70 percent of the teaching staff will come from here. And we are also creating jobs, we are likely to need not less than 40 new lecturers, and non-teaching staff including studio technologies and laboratory assistants. The National Universities Commission (NUC) chose the Department of Communication Arts of the University of Uyo as centre of excellence in the study of communication in Nigeria; that is why we cannot let NUC down, we cannot let the state and the University of Uyo down.

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What is involved in being known as a Centre of Excellence?

It means that in the aspect of manpower, in the aspect of studio facilities, and in the aspect of output, we have been found reliable. And so, as a centre of excellence, it also means that other communication programmes in Nigeria could come here and see how things are done, and copy it. And you can hardly find a place that teaches communication in Nigeria without the input from the erstwhile Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo. Our postgraduate programmes, our doctoral programme is second-to-none in the whole of communication institutions in Nigeria and we are exporting and we keep exporting the products of the department to the outside world.

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